my week in writing

Things keeping my writing happening this week:

1. Numbered to-do lists: discrete tasks, numbered so I don't have to make any decisions about what to do next when I finish an item.

2. Turning off the wi-fi. Amazing what I can do in a few hours sans wifi if I've had a good night's sleep. Usually, my so-called-breaks involve internet readings, so effectively they aren't a break for my eyes or my focus. But with the wifi off, my breaks involved actual mental break activities like jumping jacks and making a smoothie.

Reading This Week

Writing a novel via email—whoa! Part of me loves the serialized-esque nature of the writing process, and part of me thinks I should write more on the fly, using emails to myself as a way to freewrite.


my week in writing: the end

This week, I've been struggling to write a short conclusion for my dissertation. I'm intimidated that it's the last thing and that it will be set in stone by Monday.

To facilitate the teeth pulling, I talked it through with friends, turned off my computer, and made myself free write.

Then, on another day when I already had the gist of it down, I turned off my internet at the router, left my phone behind, and worked in another room. I could still check the internet If I wanted, but I had get up and walk to the router or phone to do it. No fooling myself that I was still working. (This strategy worked so well to quiet my mind—much more than just turning off my laptop's wifi—that I'm thinking of doing it every day.)

At one point I started to message a friend to talk through my thinking, but I realized that, duh, the internet was off. So I literally wrote my note to him in my word document: “Hey sounds like a fun evening! So I’m thinking about…but it isn't quite what I mean so....” 


Gretchen Rubin has a theory that people are generally finishers or openers. In some aspects of daily life, I'm probably a finisher, but ending my dissertation has made me feel anxious, and I can't quite get to the last sentence yet. Just the thought of writing the very last sentence—and not being able to change it after Monday—yikes!

I'm not usually a person who writes to a deadline unless it's self-imposed, but I think the deadline to submit my final pdf is something I need to help me let go, move on, open life's next chapter.

my week in writing: a success and a fail

I thought I had escaped winter unscathed. My son has been snotting on me since October but SPRING IS SO CLOSE.

It was not to be.

However, I did have a strategy success in spite of my cold: I save easy tasks for when I'm under the weather or when my brain is tired of hard thinking. So I did the oh-so-tedious but able-to-be-done-by-a-sickie task of proofreading my dissertation's footnotes to find any omissions in my list of works cited. While I'm not very concerned about typos in a dissertation, I feel that, if I cite a committee member, maybe just maybe their article should appear in said works cited (oops!).

One strategy fail: Sometimes I bribe myself into motivation by going to a coffee shop, but while trying to read in one, I was reminded that I can never comprehend academic work (especially in an unfamiliar discipline) with all that buzz going on.

I also made lots of longhand notes toward my current book project. I'm trying a new-to-me strategy of writing my main arguments in detail, like polished little abstracts. I don't usually begin projects with arguments in hand, but since this project is rooted in specific ones I want to make, I think refining those arguments could be helpful.

Reading This Week

Good article from Chronicle Vitae on scholarly writing. Key takeaway 1: if you want to publish in the trade (rather than with an academic press), frame your argument around "narrative as well as the human drama at the core of narrative." Key takeaway 2: be wary of transferring the repetition of lecturing into your writing.

And I love Kelly J. Baker's concept of a boom project: "If I’m writing a boom project instead of a book, I’m aiming for resonance, presence, and force. I’m aiming for impact and intelligence and empathy. I’m aiming to analyze those hard and overlooked truths of our world while maintaining my hope for change."